Hidden Niches of Historical Romance
Historical romance is a broad umbrella that covers many wet, shivering time periods. Regency and Westerns stand firmly under the center of the umbrella. Other less often visited eras sometimes seem to cluster around the edges getting water down their necks. Off the beaten path stories and places always attract me. I’d like to share a couple of romance reads that celebrate the great diversity within the historical genre.
Victorian times (1887) is hardly a small niche, but the content of Trades of the Flesh by Faye L. Booth is. I really enjoyed this tough heroine who did what she had to in order to survive.
A darkly erotic tale of prostitution, murder, and medical science in Victorian England.
Lydia Ketch is a young woman whose life some would call immoral and shameful. But with the death of her mother and the prospect of the obscene conditions of the workhouse looming before her, Lydia chooses to enter into the “trade” in order to shield herself (and, more to the point, her sweet younger sister) from life’s ravages and give them a chance at something better. Her education, working in the ‘introduction house’ of Kathleen Tanner, has given her some very unusual skills and an income few others could match.
When Lydia meets Henry Shadwell, a young surgeon with a passionate interest in biology—and in Lydia’s shadowy world—the chemistry between the two is instant. Their relationship deepens when Henry discovers that Lydia possesses a nimble intellect. He soon enlists Lydia’s help in his underground sidelines, first as a model for pornographic photography: then as an assistant in procuring corpses for medical experimentation.
With the dangers of her own line of work becoming clearer by the day, and her newfound delight in her own sexuality burgeoning, Lydia becomes disillusioned with her life as a prostitute.
It soon become evident that her trade–and Henry’s–are even more dangerous than either had imagined.
An oldie but always a goodie for me is Wild at Heart by Patricia Gaffney set in 1890s Michigan. This book is a classic for a reason.
They called him the “lost man.” Raised in the wood, without speech, without civilization, he was beautifully, wonderfully wild. And when he was captured and locked away to be studied by scientists, he was treated more like an animal than a human being.
Only Sydney, daughter of a renowned anthropologist, looked beyond the wildness to see the man. Something in his fierce loneliness called to her, imploring her to help him, to save him, to make him her friend. But the world was not nearly so understanding. And soon, still haunted by the mysterious tragedy of his past, he wanted more from her than friendship. He wanted all of her — her love, her heart, and her soul.
And then there are a host of China set stories by Jeannie Lin, including Butterfly Swords, set in the Tang dynasty:
During China’s infamous Tang Dynasty, a time awash with luxury yet littered with deadly intrigues and fallen royalty, betrayed Princess Ai Li flees before her wedding.Miles from home, with only her delicate butterfly swords for defense, she enlists the reluctant protection of a blue-eyed warrior….
Battle-scarred, embittered Ryam has always held his own life at cheap value. Ai Li’s innocent trust in him and honorable, stubborn nature make him desperate to protect her—which means not seducing the first woman he has ever truly wanted….
Historical romance isn’t all about girls in big pretty dresses trying to land a lord. In such a broad romance genre as “historical” there are hundreds of sub niches where readers can find the stories that speak to them.